Great Gifts We’ve Tested for the 4x4 Camper
Camping Goods & Gifts From UA 2019
It doesn't take much persuading to get those of us at Petersen's 4-Wheel & Off-Road to go camping. Heck, I for one love camping and have done it all my life. Sure, I've had bad times camping, and hotels with running water and toilets are sometimes very nice during a trip, but give me solitude, a flowing creek, a fire ring, a cooler of beer, good friends, and some food, and I'm in heaven on Earth.
Still, camping can be miserable when everything gets soaked, or it's super-hot or cold enough to freeze everything in camp. Learning camping tips and tricks and what products are worth lugging along for the trip makes the experience that much better—and boy, do we have experience! Good weather always helps, but weather is part of the adventure and almost any weather situation can be dealt with when you're properly prepared.
Here are some items that have made repeat appearances on our annual Ultimate Adventure. These are things we've tested and can stand behind. They do what they say they'll do and make our time in the dirt all that more enjoyable. Oh, and our timing is no accident. With the holiday season around the corner, please consider one of these options as a gift for your four-wheeling friends and family.
Jet Boil Zip Cooking System
One thing that makes camping that much more comfortable is warm food and drink when you want it. Sure, cowboys made coffee on the fire, and we always love grilling meats and veg out over flame and coals, but sometimes you just need that caffeinated beverage or warm chili right now—particularly the morning after an unforgettable night in camp. Enter Jet Boil. Our pal Fred Williams (Dirty Every Day) has been toting one around for years so he can brew up his go-juice first thing in the morning. Not surprisingly when the scent of coffee hits the air a line forms and Fred becomes the worst paid and most appreciated barista within miles. A Jet Boil makes quick work of heating up food and drink and packs up into a nearly inconceivably small stowable unit when not in use.
What it does: Heats up food and drink fast.
Why we love it: A simple and easy cooking system available for under a hundred bucks with free shipping from Jet Boil.
What is costs (retail): $79.95
Dometic CFX 95DZW Freezer Fridge
Yes, you could buy a lot of ice at the convenience store for what it costs to buy a quality freezer-fridge, but spend more than a few days away from a quickie mart or forget to stock up on ice just once before you head out to the boonies and a freezer-fridge will more than make up for several years' worth of inexpensive frozen water—trust us. There's nothing better than having truly ice-cold water after you've worked up a sweat getting up a trail. And it's hard to beat well refrigerated food or an ice-cold frothy malted adult beverage while at camp. This Dometic, carried on UA 2019 by Offroad Power Products' own Cooper Rasmussen, is huge with dual zones and Wi-Fi. It held way more than just his and his co-driver Cameron Hotchkiss' food and drinks. We also stashed lots of beer in this behemoth of a freezer-fridge so we could help ourselves to a cold beer (and maybe a snack or two). Most campers will probably never need such a huge, dual-zone freezer-fridge, but if you have a family of eight and you like overlanding, this might be the fridge for you. Dometic Freezer Fridges come in many sizes, and our pals at Offroad Power Products, the Official Retailer of UA 2019, can get you one for your adventure rig.
What it does: Refrigerates and freezes whatever you want. These units are durable and come in many sizes, and Dometic has been making appliances for car camping and RVs for years and years.
Why we love it: While this fridge is huge, any Dometic can ensure cool produce and drinks for days out in the boonies while you're camping and on the trail.
What is costs (retail): $1,429.99; smaller units start at $649.99
Dometic (via Offroad Power Products)
FrontRunner Pro Stainless Steel Camp Table
Yep, we have all sometimes made dinner on a rock, a tailgate, or maybe a spare tire when camping. Fact is just about any flat surface (including a, gasp, table) can be a hot commodity when you're prepping food, eating, playing cards We could keep going, but why? The problem with a table, and why we've regressed to following the lead of our hideous caveman ancestors and used a rock, is that tables aren't usually easy to take camping, or even car camping or overlanding. Not so of the FrontRunner Pro Table. This table folds to a slim 1.3 inches thick. While long (about 45 inches) and wide (about 30 inches), the table fits most off-road rigs nicely between the roof and a roof rack. That's right—it fits in a spot where there's usually nothing but air. Also, it's sturdy, has a stainless steel top (that's easy to clean and keep sanitary), and only weighs 26 pounds.
What it does: It's a table. It acts as a table while camping.
Why we love it: Overlanding seems to be a race to see who can bring the most stuff— the most useful stuff. This table is definitely useful, and it fits in a spot you didn't know you had free.
What is costs (retail): $419
Front Runner (via Offroad Power Products)
Outback Adventure Products Trailgater
Flat surfaces are at a premium when we are prepping food on the Ultimate Adventure, but although a great big (yet lightweight and stowable) table would be nice, it's not realistic for all highly capable off-road rigs. For example, you might not have a roof, let alone a roof rack, where you could store a large table). Still, most of us have a tailgate of some sort. We don't know who, but someone somewhere realized that you could attach a fold-down flat surface to a tailgate. The first of these surface expanders were surely homebuilt, but now Outback Adventure Products sells the fold-down Trailgater (nice name). While this product is only intended to fit on JKs and JLs, we'd bet you could figure out how to fit one to several other 4x4s, including your own.
What it does: Folds down to provide a prep surface when you are car camping, and folds up and out of the way when not in use.
Why we love it: Available with either a Sanalite (HDPE) cutting board or a bamboo cutting board, this fold-down prep area will hold up to 40 pounds when installed correctly.
What is costs (retail): $299-$345 depending on model and features.
Outback Adventure Products (via Offroad Power Products)
Oztent Jet XL Tent Bunker
A few years back the UA cronies from Alabama, Sam Gillis and Keith Bailey, brought along a simple yet inexpensive tent cot and a UA tradition was born. These things can be set up in minutes and, while not quite a tent, provide a good place to sleep. The first UA-bound tent cots were made by Kamp Rite, and although they work, the first generation of cots was downright cumbersome when folded. The second generation of Kamp Rite tents saw some "improvements." Folded, they were a different shape than the original but still fairly large. This year James and Stephen Watson of Offroad Design broke the tent cot mold with new camp lodging from a company called Oztent. These new cots are the Jet XL Tent Bunker from none other than Offroad Power Products, the Official Retailer of UA 2019. The Oztent Jet XJ Tent Bunker raises the bar with quality construction that is easy to fold and stow. You can bet that we want one of these to replace our smelly old tent cot for UA 2020.
What it does: Provides an easy-to-set-up, dry, bug-free, and sturdy sleepy hole for tired Ultimate Adventurers up to 330 pounds.
Why we love it: It has a steel frame and packs into a svelte 43x12x11 inches. It stows in the included waterproof carry bag.
What is costs (retail): $449.10
Oztent (via Offroad Power Products)
Zero Tolerance 0562CF Knife
If you are shopping for somebody who will only carry a really high-quality blade, have we found a gift idea for you! We have been daily carrying this Zero Tolerance 0562CF for months, and it's still razor sharp. The 3 1/2-inch blade is made of ZT's CMP 20CV steel and features an assisted opening flipper, a carbon fiber and steel handle, and a super-sturdy ball bearing opening system. It's easily one of the best folding pocket knives we've carried in the past 30 years.
What it does: Ambidextrous pocket clip, high-carbide/high-chromium blade steel for exceptional edge retention and corrosion resistance, super-smooth operation, and sturdy locking when opened.
Why we love it: The blade is chunky and the handle easy to get your mitts around for secure purchase. It just feels like a quality piece of machinery, and the blade has stayed phenomenally sharp despite nine months of constant use.
What is costs (retail): $260
Zero Tolerance Knives
Kershaw Natrix-XL Knife
A quality knife for a good price isn't easy to find. If you're working under a reasonable $100 price ceiling, the Kershaw Natrix-XL is a great gift idea. As the name implies, the Natrix-XL is on the larger side, with a chunky 3 3/4-inch-long blade and a substantial 8 3/4-inch open length.
What it does: Locks sturdily open, assisted opening flipper, smooth one-handed operation, black oxide blade coating, ball bearing movement, and reversible belt clip.
Why we love it: Personally, we've never been fans of micro pocket knives. The Natrix-XL is a substantial folding pocket knife that you can get a solid full-hand grip on for serious work, yet it's still lightweight and thin enough to virtually disappear when you wear it.
What is costs (retail): $92.39
TemboTusk Skottle Grill
We've told you about the TemboTusk Skottle before. Yes, we have! If memory serves, Cooper Rasmussen of Offroad Power Products has brought one with him on at least the past three UAs. We know because as the resident "fat kid," we don't miss many meals, even other folks' meals, when camping. Our best practices call for eating early and often, and the TemboTusk Skottle is a nice piece of kit to facilitate that. You can cook up all kinds of delicious delicacies in the wok-style frying pan, from sukiyaki to grilled cheese sandwiches and just about everything in between. Heat comes from a compressed camp propane bottle, and this sucker gets hot fast but is as capable of fine heat adjustment as a household gas stove is. One way or another, whenever we make camp and Cooper fricassees up something sweet, spicy, or savory, you can bet we float down the scent trail like Pep Le Pew.
What it does: Makes cooking a fancy meal just about anywhere easy.
Why we love it: You can use it even in places where you can't have a campfire. It is portable and fun to use, and the Skottle itself is fabricated right here in the good old U.S. of A.
What is costs (retail): $225
TemboTusk (via Offroad Power Products)
Vizz 350-OR LED Headlamp
Situational awareness is a popular idea these days. While we try to stay aware of our surroundings, when night falls that becomes difficult for our daytime-adapted eyes. A headlamp is an absolute Ultimate Adventure must. It helps extend the day after the sun sets and is a great tool when working on a 4x4 in any low-light situation. Plus, we have this funny picture of our leader and pal, Editor Christian Hazel, being social while wearing a headlamp in camp in red-light mode so it would be easier on eyes of others. The Vizz headlamp from Princeton Tec could also serve as a taillamp on a rig if all onboard illumination fails when you're on the trail. The Vizz is inexpensive, UA-proven, and adaptable to just about everything we need.
What it does: Provides light when you're in camp or working on your rig.
Why we love it: It has settings for spotlight high, spotlight low, flood high, and red high. It's also sturdy, water resistant, plenty bright, and inexpensive.
What is costs (retail): $35